Snow is gently falling outside my window, predicted to continue for another three days, hopefully ensuring a white Christmas. That was really all I wanted for Christmas this year, snow. And world peace, of course.
All week long I have thought about what to write for my Christmas column. The subject that I kept coming up with was “gratitude.” It may be an odd choice and perhaps a bit too spiritual, but please bear with me.
What began this train of thought was a comment by Rabbi Caryn Broitman, whose observations, whether measured or off the cuff, I often find thought-provoking. She was speaking about a “menorah of gratitude,” in one’s mind, of course, a seven-branched candelabra with each flickering light representing something for which one is grateful. I have thought about this a lot. It seems important to be mindful of all that we have to be grateful for in our lives. It is too easy to be focused on what’s next rather than what’s here in this very moment. I’m trying to learn. I hope I will be able to remember this when the eventual bad times come.
My daily menorah branches are carefully considered every morning as I drink my coffee (one of the things I am grateful for, my coffee in my Talley cup, a mug from Bramhall and Dunn that has a stylized yellow lab with a red collar on it). My husband and the life we have together. Talley and Murphy, our dogs. Grace, the cat, and Edgardo, our goldfish. Our families and friends. Our work. Our home. The views I see every day that inspire me to paint. The ability to see and compose paintings, not merely to drive down the road. The children we have loved and watched grow up, including new ones who come into our lives. Feeling safe. Being part of this community. Smiles and regard of so many people I know and care about. Happiness in the dailiness of my life. The flowers, usually fragrant roses in the winter, on my table, and knowing I will be able to afford to replace them when they wilt. Good health for both Mike and me. Acceptance of myself and much of what used to drive me nuts.
It’s funny to not really want anything. I can remember presents being the big thing, the anticipation, and then the sight of them under the tree. But now, watching the snow outside my window seems enough.
Mike and I brought our tree in this weekend. He tells me I say this every year, but this tree is truly the best one we have ever had. Putting up and decorating the tree is an annual trip down memory lane. Many of the decorations were on the trees we had as children, many collected together during our married years. It’s an eclectic tree. Every ornament has a story that must be retold, then carefully placed to its greatest artistic advantage.
Once the tree is in place, my husband disappears. The annual ritual of reminiscences is too much for him. So, too, my needing to place every ornament just so, to my artist’s eye. He just wants to get it done. I think he throws everything on wherever he’s standing. He thinks I’m obsessive and way too slow. Fortunately, this year I was feeling a sore throat and cold coming on, so was happy to be on my own, nursing tea and time on the sofa to admire my progress.
My friend, Martha Fleishman, came by to help me for a while. She is a new friend this year, so had never heard the history of every ornament, and was an interested and willing reminiscer, adding her holiday stories to mine. She is also an artist, so I appreciated her help and didn’t have to move every ornament she hung after she left (Mike says I do this).
It’s cookie-baking time, time to finish getting the house and dinner ready for everyone to arrive on Christmas Eve. The tables will once again run the length of our dining room and adjoining sunroom. The tree and candle light will sparkle. I won’t get done everything I plan to do. No one will notice or care. On another branch of my Menorah of Gratitude, I will accept that I never do and it doesn’t matter.
I would love some year to get to the 5 pm Christmas Eve service at the Ag Hall. I rarely make the 10 pm service at the West Tisbury Church. Reverend Baker is another of the people for whom I am grateful and I always value the lessons she has to give. Christmas falls on the Sabbath this year. Lori Shaller, rabbinical student and wife in an inter-faith couple as I am, will prepare Christmas dinner for her family, then lead the Saturday morning Torah service at the Hebrew Center. Another gift to be grateful for, learning new things.
Merry Christmas everyone.